One of the message boards I frequent, DVD Talk, has been alight with discussion over Carradine's passing all morning and I confess to being surprised at how many posters are not simply surprised by this...but disappointed in him, as well. In a nutshell, the argument seems to be: dying is sad, suicide is shameful and dying from a sex accident is worse still. Rubbish, I say! It would be presumptuous to claim that I know what occured in that hotel room. For all I know, Mr. Carradine was murdered by a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the, um, movie production company. Since all we have is the official report, though, then it is upon that which my argument shall be based.
Let's say it was suicide. This is an upsetting topic for many people, and I do not mean for my remarks to be misconstrued as a cavalier endorsement of the act. People only commit suicide for one reason, and that is to escape something that has upset them so much they prefer not to live with it. Sometimes this is emotional trauma, sometimes it's a physical condition. Others do it to get out of serving a couple of years in a minimum security federal prison for embezzlement. Whatever the reason, I find it morally reprehensible to say to another human being that they should not consider ending their life because I'm squeamish about it. I don't know how upsetting it might be to bury your entire family in one day, or to have stage three cancer, but I know this much: it probably dwarfs the kinds of irritations that nag at most of the people whose lives haven't nudged them into considering ending their own life.
So, hypothetically let's say that Mr. Carradine elected to end his own life. That tells us that something was so upsetting to him that he could not find it in himself to cope with it. Now, remember, the man was 72 years old. He's lived through burying family members, career highs and lows and the Bush administration. None of that brought him to the brink, so whatever impetus he had must have been even more devastating than those things--which are all common reasons for suicide. If something that upsetting was plaguing the man, why should he not be entitled to say, "Not this time?"
As I've indicated, though, I do not suspect Mr. Carradine deliberately ended his own life. Aside from the fact he was actively working on a film--by all accounts something that movie stars enjoy doing--there is the practical issue of the rope. As a general rule, hangers don't tie other parts of their bodies. They don't take the time because they don't want to have time to change their minds at the last moment. Possibly, Mr. Carradine had the foresight to expect that he was physically capable of breaking free if he panicked and wanted to ensure that he did not survive, but that seems unnecessary. Surely he could have found another method to ensure a quick death.
That leaves us with auto-erotic asphyxiation (for the uninitiated, it's a sexual fetish in which a person is tied up for the purpose of being deprived of oxygen during the sex act). For some reason, the notion of David Carradine dying as a result of an unsafe performance of this act upsets some of his fans. I say, at 72, if the guy was still vital and adventuresome enough to explore his sexuality in that fashion, then kudos. We in the United States compartmentalize nearly every part of our lives, to the point that we have begun to deny the organic nature of life.
The way I see it, exploring one's sexuality and arriving at auto-erotic asphyxiation is no more shameful than exploring one's interest in literature and learning to read Crime and Punishment in the original Russian. Maybe most people won't go that far, but the moral value of any action should never be weighed by its popularity. Because of Mr. Carradine's public persona as an actor, fans have done to him what they have done since the dawn of time to anyone who has made a name for himself: they have interpreted and re-imagined him in their own image. This, I think, is the real reason why so many are already balking at the notion that he would die as a consequence of performing a kink act; he was willing to explore a part of himself that they have denied themselves.
My spiritual beliefs tell me that everything that happens does so for a reason. Do not think me so arrogant as to speak for God, but logic suggests that at least one reason for everything that happens is to teach us something. Sometimes, the lesson is only for ourselves; sometimes there is a secondary lesson intended for others. I could be mistaken, but it seems to me that our society has the chance to learn about itself from Mr. Carradine's death. If, of course, it can be prodded into such an exploration.